Friday, November 19, 2010

A Tribute to Topper

Many years ago, a friend of a friend rescued a 1 ½ year old basenji, so I shared my phone number, and told her to call if she had any questions. 2 weeks later, the phone rang and she said she only had one question…would I take him? I hesitated for a split-second, looked at my husband Donald who firmly said “no,” and I asked where she lived and when she would be home. When we arrived, Topper spun around and leapt into my husband’s arms, and we knew he was ours. He was a whirling dervish, a playful boy who we taught to get on the bed and couch, but when he began waking me up at 4 am to play I wondered I had made a huge mistake. We told him that we were not going to get deeply emotionally attached to him, he was going to be “just a dog.”

Topper was our first black and white basenji and at first I couldn’t really ‘see’ his eyes or expression, but soon I was able to see into the darkness and his gaze was loving and strong. I thought he was the most beautiful basenji I had ever seen. “Just a dog”…right. We were deeply in love with him within 24 hours. It was a relationship of mutual respect and love that lasted almost 14 years, from the first moment we saw him, until the very last moment.

We joined the Basenji-L chat list and BRAT, ‘back in the day,’ and made many friends in cyberspace. Donald is a photographer, so I also joined B-Pix. Topper’s photos were posted on a regular basis, and we got to know friends from all over the world. When Topper recently passed on, their messages of love and support helped us through a very rough week. I read the BRAT Blog daily and love the banner, which is a photo Donald took of Topper running with his buddies at the dog park.

Before dog parks, there was a big field where a few folks brought their dogs to play, unfenced. I trained Topper to come to a whistle so he wouldn’t run off, but he always stayed and played with his dog pals. We had a 14 year old girl named Ginger who would walk off alone, and Topper would break off his play about every 15 minutes to go and find her, exchange sniffs, and return to his play. A year later a friend found a wild, uncivilized beach and for several years we went there every afternoon to let him run free, chase rabbits and birds, and watch the sunsets.
By the time Topper was 5, fenced dog parks were opening and that wonderful beach was being made into a park, so our life of dog parks began. We added Nicky (BRAT) as a playmate for him. The next 5 years flew by, we started a group of basenjis & their owners who have been meeting every Sunday for the last 10 years. All the dogs and humans have become an extended family.
Topper was never as healthy as he looked and acted, first pneumonia, then a spine injury, more pneumonia, and 5 years ago, asthma, heart disease, and finally his plumbing. A handful of medicines twice a day kept him active and content, but we never thought he would make 15. That birthday, which came on October 1st this year, was a real milestone. Every day after was a bonus. He was normal in the morning of November 10, then went downhill over a matter of 2 hours in the late afternoon, and there was no question that it was ‘time.’ Our vet is a friend who met us at his clinic and helped our brave, sweet, handsome boy cross over. I know he is in very good company at the Rainbow Bridge with all the wonderful basenjis waiting to greet him. I like to think he is doing his silly whirly-twirls in the clouds.

-Anne MacMillan


  1. So glad we got to know and love Topper. He was a great role model for Guppy.

  2. Anne, I feel like Top is family. I never actually met him, but I miss him, too. He sure had a great life with you and Donald, and the gentle passing he deserved. Hugs to you.

  3. What a beautiful story. I am saddened to hear he has now gone to the bridge, but what wonderful memories he has left...what a legacy.

  4. I see him running free on the endless beach --

  5. I love the story of Topper and how you came into the Basenji family. We have similar stories and I have always love the wonderful photos from Donald, I too am a photographer and there is nothing more satisfying than taking pictures of our B's other than everything else connected with them.

  6. The park will never be the same without him. I'm very sorry for our loss (but heaven's gain). Kirby will do his best to keep all the "balls" away in your boy's absence! My heart goes out to the both of you.